Research funding

IELTS joint-funded research programme 

IELTS has been developing and delivering English language tests since 1989. We are committed to ensuring our assessments are effective, relevant, and follow current best practices. That is why the IELTS Partners fund a wide range of research into English language testing, and use the results to constantly improve and optimise our own assessments.

Since 1995, over 140 external studies by over 350 individual researchers have been funded under this scheme. This research ensures that IELTS contributes to the growing understanding of the nature of language proficiency and its place within linguistics and language education.

The IELTS Partners invite educational institutions and qualified individuals to apply for funding to undertake IELTS-related applied research projects. The application process takes place each year between April and June.

What level and duration of funding is available?

The maximum value of funding for any one proposal is £45000/AUD$80000.

Projects should run over the course of one or two years.

What is covered by this funding?

Institutional overheads or taxes are covered, with a limit of 15% of budget on overheads.

The joint-funded research programme is not designed to cover extensive travel, large items of equipment, or conference attendance. Support may be given upon successful acceptance of a conference abstract once research is completed and published.

Applications for funding of PhD research projects are discouraged.

Who can apply?

We invite proposals from researchers and institutions with expertise and experience in language learning and assessment research. This includes suitably qualified researchers and organisations with a direct and ongoing connection with IELTS, e.g. consultants, examiners, and IELTS Administration Centres.

Both individuals and teams are invited to apply. Early-career researchers are encouraged to join a team led by more experienced researchers. 

2024 funding timeline

30 June 2024Deadline for applications
July/August 2024Preliminary review of applications
October 2024Evaluation and selection of successful applicants
November 2024Applicants are notified of the Research Committee's decision
January 2025Research commences. Programmes can be one or two years in length
December 2025/26Research reports due

To find out more, read our guidelines for applying.

IELTS research areas of interest

Test development and validation issues

Research in this area would include the following:

  • Studies on the essential language knowledge, skills, and abilities in domains where IELTS is used (e.g. for academic study, migration, employment).
  • Studies on IELTS General Training Reading and Writing tests.
  • Studies on the Writing and Speaking features that distinguish IELTS proficiency levels.

Test preparation practices

  • Studies on the impact of preparing for IELTS on various stakeholders.
  • Studies on the relationship between test preparation strategies and test taker performance (including strategies designed to accommodate local student needs).
  • Studies on the challenges of test preparation taking place in imperfect settings or circumstances.
  • Studies investigating the impact of different kinds of preparation, including non-test-focused EAP study courses compared to test-focused preparation, etc. 
  • Studies investigating the relationship between IELTS test preparation and language learning (including the development of skills for potential use beyond the test).

Issues relating to contexts of test use

  • Studies on the use of IELTS for purposes of academic study, migration, citizenship, professional registration, exit testing and employment.
  • Studies on the use of IELTS and IELTS scores in specific local contexts.
  • Studies to establish appropriate IELTS score levels in specific contexts.

Issues of test impact

  • Studies on the attitudes and perceptions towards IELTS among users of test scores (e.g. test takers, teachers, admissions staff) .
  • Studies on the implications of Covid-19 for the context of use for IELTS test scores and test score users' perceptions of IELTS test scores.
  • Studies investigating the uses of test scores to inform further learning and teaching by test score users.
  • Studies on the language assessment literacy of test score users and/or the effectiveness of approaches aiming to develop this.
  • Studies on the role of interactive communication in IELTS Speaking or Writing tests and its impact on candidates' preparedness for communication in training or study contexts.
  • Studies on aspects of the social impact of IELTS test score use, test preparation, etc.

Issues of technology

  • Studies on the use of technology in test preparation, language education and assessment more broadly.
  • Studies on aspects of IELTS on computer.
  • Studies on video-call speaking.
  • Studies on different modes of delivery for the IELTS test.

Find out more by exploring our Previously funded research.